The All Russia bloc, informally headed by Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev and made up of influential regional leaders, has officially decided to enter into a coalition with Fatherland, the movement headed by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Shaimiev said that the goal of the coalition–whose provisional name is Our Fatherland–All Russia–is to win 226 of the 450 seats in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, in December’s parliamentary election and to form a cabinet representing the “parliamentary majority.” While the question of who will lead the bloc has not yet been answered, Luzhkov said today during a joint session of the two movements’ political councils that Fatherland is ready to put former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov at the top of the new coalition’s list of candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections. Luzhkov called Primakov “a politician of federal importance” who should re-enter politics (Russian agencies, August 4). Public opinion polls show that Primakov retains the highest rating among Russia’s politicians (Russian agencies, Vremya MN, August 4).
Given the key role regional leaders play in delivering votes in elections, All Russia’s support is highly coveted, and the Kremlin reportedly worked hard to prevent Shamiev’s and Luzhkov’s blocs from joining forces. Indeed, the Kremlin, apparently realizing that the merger was inevitable, reportedly changed its strategy yesterday to what one newspaper described as: “If you can’t stop a process, try to lead it.” Thus, according to Morozov, the Kremlin yesterday heavily lobbied the leaders of All Russia to name Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin as the new coalition’s leader. After the announcement of the coalition, the All Russia leadership was invited to a meeting in the Kremlin with Stepashin and Kremlin administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin. Afterward, Morozov said that Stepashin had categorically refused to lead the bloc (Vremya MN, August 4). It was not clear whether the All Russia leaders offered him the spot, or whether it was suggested by Voloshin. Today, President Boris Yeltsin met with Shaimiev to discuss the “consolidation of all centrist strengths with the goal of winning a constructive parliamentary majority in the new State Duma,” presidential spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin said (Russian agencies, August 4).
In another setback, Yeltsin reportedly failed yesterday to convince Viktor Chernomyrdin–currently the chairman of the board of the gas giant Gazprom and leader of the Russia is our Home bloc–to throw in his lot with a recently formed center-right coalition which includes Anatoly Chubais, Sergei Kirienko, Boris Nemtsov and Samara Governor Konstantin Titov (Kommersant, August 4). The Kremlin apparently hopes to back this center-right coalition against Our Fatherland-All Russia if it is unable to co-opt All Russia or break up its coalition with Fatherland.
KREMLIN LIKELY TO TRY AND UNDERMINE NEW COALITION.